There has been a lot written about a recent Supreme Court Case; Association for Molecular Pathology (AMP) v. Myriad Genetics. It was a case concerning Myriad Inc's patent of the BRCA gene, a gene used to indicate a higher chance of developing breast cancer.
AMP argued that Myriad's patent gave them rights to naturally occurring DNA, Myriad in turn contended that their modifications to DNA were novel and therefore patentable. Just a few days ago, the court released its unanimous decision that supports AMP's argument that genes cannot be patented. However, the court decision also states that synthetically created DNA can be patented. So what are some of the implications?
In essence, the court made the decision to prevent companies from owning the blueprints of natural human creation, but have left the door open for synthetically created DNA to be patentable, leaving intact Myriad's current diagnostic tool. Though the loss of such patent rights will leave some pharmaceutical companies unable to profit from discoveries of naturally occurring gene patterns, there are indications that many of these companies have already moved away from wanting to patent isolated DNA regions and focusing rather on novel methodologies involved in the process of creating synthetic DNA which can be patented.
Currently, Myriad is the only company involved in the genetic analysis of the BRCA gene that screens for mutations and predisposition for cancer development. The loss of the patent will ensure other companies that may be interested in pursuing competing tests that they are not infringing upon Myriad's former patent. This is important as it prevents a monopoly of such testing and the negative consequences associated with it, such as uncontrolled pricing.
Though some may argue that gene patenting will prevent innovation by decreasing the incentive for pharmaceutical companies to pursue research and investment, it simply does not overcome the fact that natural phenomena are un-patentable and in my opinion shouldn't be -- we are born with genes, and these structures should not belong to others in the form of intellectual property.